Anders Nes

Strong Phenomenal Intentionality versus the Holism of Non-Demonstrative Inference

Diverse contemporary philosophers of mind follow Brentano in affirming a close connection between intentionality and consciousness. An influential subset of such philosophers, including such naturalists as Tye, Dretske, and Lycan, seek to explain (phenomenal) consciousness in terms of notions of intentionality they see as prior to, and independent of, consciousness. However, recently, a converse (and surely more Brentanian) approach has been gathering steam, according to which the notion of intentionality is at least coeval with that of consciousness, an approach lately dubbed the ‘Phenomenal Intentionality Research Programme’ (Krigel forthcoming) What I term ‘Strong Phenomenal Intentionality’ (SPI) holds all intentional states to be phenomenally conscious (a view defended by Georgalis 2006 and Strawson 2008), or, if they are not phenomenally conscious, to exemplify ‘second-class’ forms of intentionality, in that they are interpretation-dependent (Kriegel 2011), somehow inferential shadows of phenomenal states (Horgan and Graham forthcoming), or derivative in some other way upon phenomenal states. (See Kriegel forthcoming: 19-20 for discussion). SPI, I shall argue, confronts a challenge over the holistic character of non-demonstrative inference. The reasonability of most of our inferences, in both theoretical and practical reasoning, depends on vast tracts of background knowledge, or background assumptions. This is brought out in what Carnap (1950), Hempel (1960), and most subsequent theorists of non-deductive reasoning have accepted under the name of the ‘Requirement of Total Evidence’ (RTE). As T. Kelly (2006) recently has put it: “In order to be justified in believing some proposition then, it is not enough that that proposition be well-supported by some proper subset of one´s total evidence; rather, what is relevant is how well-supported the proposition is by one´s total evidence.” Fodor´s (1983) discussion of the holistic, apparently unencapsulated nature of belief fixation touches on closely related themes. On plausible assumptions about what it takes for some evidence to be available to some subject (and so be part of her total evidence), SPI in conjunction with RTE implies that the reasonability of a non-demonstrative inference is relative, at most, to the totality of the phenomenally conscious states of the subject, or, in so far as there are exceptions to this, that these exceptions are due to second-class intentional states. This implication, I argue, is not plausible. The reasonability of our non-demonstrative inferences pervasively depends on vast stocks of knowledge or belief that is merely preconscious, in the Freudian sense, or access but not phenomenally conscious, in Block’s (1995).

For example, suppose I´m walking past a café in Salzburg, and decide to walk in and order a cappuccino. In making this decision, I assumed the café had a floor to walk on, that it serves cappuccinos safe for human consumption, that the people behind the counter would treat me with a minimum of respect and so, e.g., not attack me but serve me, etc. etc. If I didn’t assume this, my forming of this intention would be quite unreasonable. However, it is not plausible to think that all of these assumptions somehow figured in my overall, occurrent phenomenally conscious state of mind at the time prior to entering. It might well be that, what was occupying my conscious awareness prior to forming my decision, were thoughts of the pleasures and benefits of getting a cappuccino, of the attractive woodwork on the walls and ceiling (as seen though the windows), some hopeful musings that some members of Camerata Salzburg (of which I´m a fan) surely must be regulars at a place like this, and some other vague reflections related to my touristy, stereotyped conception of Salzburg. If asked ’what was your mind´ immediately after making my decision, these are the things that would spring to my self-awareness. True, if asked ´Did you assume this café to have a floor safe to walk on?’ I would naturally reply ´Yes, of course´. But my grounds for affirming this question would be different in kind from my grounds for affirming ´Were you supposing this place would be quite likely to be frequented by members of the Camerata?’ The latter I could affirm because of some sort of vivid memory; the question about my assumption about the floor, in constrast, I answer in some different way. Drawing on Bretano´s (1874/1973: 22-27) discussion of ´inner perception´ and its relation to memory, I argue this is evidence that my background assumptions about the floor etc. (in contrast to my thoughts about the woodwork, the Camerata, etc.) are not phenomenal states.

These considerations do not, as they stand, disprove the more qualified form of SPI according to which I do have the alleged, non-phenomenal background assumptions, but that these are somehow second-class examples of intentionality. I end by arguing against some versions of this qualified form of SPI, notably the construal of such states as interpretation-dependent, proposed by Kriegel (2011). I note that this view has the implication that the reasonability of my (phenomenally conscious) decision to visit the cafe is also an interpretation-dependent matter. If so, the power of this phenomenal state to make other intentional states reasonable – for example, leading me to form a decision to find the entrance – is also interpretation-dependent. These implications are not attractive, I argue. Moreover, at least some of the non-phenomenal background assumptions play as causal role in making me form the relevant intention, and do so in a content-sensitive way. By appeal to the classical Cartesian idea that there can be no less reality in the cause than in the effect, I conclude we should not take an interpretationist – and so, in broad terms, a projectivist – view of such non-phenomenal states, if we do not take if of such phenomenally conscious intentional states as my decision to visit the cafe. Brentano, F. (1874/1973) Psychology from Empirical Standpoint . Edited by O. Kraus. English edition L. L. McAlister, ed. Translated by A. C. Rancurello, D. B. Terrell, and L. L. McAlister. Routledge. Carnap, R. (1950) The Logical Foundations of Probability. Chicago University Press. Georgalis , N . (2006) The Primacy of the Subjective . Cambridge MA : MIT Press . Hempel, C. (1960). “Inductive Inconsistencies”, Synthese 12: 439-469. Horgan , T . and G. Graham Forthcoming . “Phenomenal Intentionality and Content Determinacy.” In R. Schantz , Prospects for Meaning . Amsterdam : de Gruyter. Kriegel, U. (2011) The Sources of Intentionality. OUP. Kriegel, U. (forthcoming) "The Phenomenal Intentionality Research Program", Phenomenal Intentionality: New Essays, OUP. Accessed from <>, 1.12.2012 Strawson , G . 2008 . “Real Intentionality 3: Why Intentionality Entails Consciousness.” In his Real Materialism and Other Essays . OUP.

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